A collection of pictures blended together to make original digital art Art & Photography Licensing 101 Licensing Agreements


©2018 Michael Woodward

Every license needs to be some form of written agreement stating the precise terms you are granting to the Licensee (the Client).

Firstly you have to ascertain the following: 

  1. The usage i.e. what product or products does the manufacturer or publisher wish to use your art on.
  2. The selling price of the product. (You always work from the trade selling price).
  3. The print run or initial quantity manufactured.
  4. The territory i.e. North America only, Europe, worldwide etc.  This is the territory where the publisher wishes to sell the product.
  5. The term, i.e. how long do they want the license for.

Many Licensees i.e. publishers/manufacturers issue their own agreements these days. In some cases the manufacturer’s contract or agreement may be quite straightforward, however too frequently publishers may insert a few “interesting” clauses which if signed by you can sometimes end up with them owning more rights than you intended, such as the right to sub-license the designs for other products. You may want to do this your-self- if the client licenses the work you will be getting only 50% of the fee.

As a Rule: Never sign a Copyright Assignment unless there is a very good reason.  This is a way of the client gaining control of copyright. Licences should grant reproduction rights only.

Contracts can always be looked over by an IP Attorney but they should be specifically trained and specialise in copyright law and Intellectual Property.  For small contracts for individual designs this is not really cost effective.  At rates of $150 – $300 and more per hour for a good copyright lawyer this is not practical for a freelance artist. If you are earning a really good income and it’s a major license with a substantial advance it’s essential to consult an intellectual property attorney, an experienced reputable Licensing Agent or consultant for advice.

In “Licensing Art & Photography 101” I include a sample contract as well as a License/invoice. Attorneys charge substantial sums for this service. This agreement and license is suitable for simple licenses for individual designs.

Other Resources:
Allworth Books have business and legal forms for graphic designers, illustrators and photographers by Tad Crawford   https://www.skyhorsepublishing.com/allworth-press/

Often a client will pay an advance against a royalty which means essentially that he is paying a portion of the potential royalties “upfront” which acts as a minimum payment. You will start to receive royalties when this advance has been paid off which could be 12 -18 months from signing. Remember it often takes 6-12 months from signing an agreement before product reaches the store.

Be patient-it takes time to build licensing revenue.

©2018 Michael Woodward



Licensing Art & Photography 101 is the most comprehensive guide to licensing in the industry. Full of insiders, tips, Contacts, resources and How too's. This is the long awaited second edition of the E-Book from Michael r Woodward fully updated for 2018.

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